Mobile World Live brings you our top three picks of the week, as Vodafone Group rejected an Iliad Italy merger proposal, rugged smartphone maker Bullitt Group folded and the GSMA teamed with IBM to tackle the telecoms AI opportunity.

Vodafone turns down Iliad advances in Italy
What happened: Vodafone rejected a second offer from Iliad to form a 50:50 joint venture combining the pair’s respective operations in Italy.

Why it matters: After Iliad revised its offer from an initial bid in December 2023, Vodafone’s latest rebuff puts an end to hopes of an agreement being reached. Iliad stated it would now push on with its standalone strategy, pledging to strengthen its play in the country. Bloomberg Intelligence telecoms analyst Erhan Gurses believes Vodafone could now pursue a tie-up with Swisscom’s Fastweb, but this represents an “inferior M&A option” and would not address the threat of Iliad in the market.

Bullitt Group hits the skids
What happened: UK-based smartphone maker Bullitt Group folded after a critical planned restructuring failed, with various former executives revealing on the LinkedIn that all staff had been laid off.

Why it matters: CCS Insight chief analyst Ben Wood said Bullitt’s exit was a real loss to the industry, but its challenges represent a wider issue in the smartphone business as companies including Apple and Samsung dominate the vast majority of volume and profit. “It is unlikely Bullitt will be the only casualty in the next few years,” he said.

GSMA, IBM team to prepare telecoms for AI era
What happened: The GSMA partnered with IBM to support adoption of GenAI solutions in telecoms through two new initiatives.

Why it matters: IBM’s latest AI adoption index shows 40 per cent of telecoms companies surveyed were exploring or experimenting with GenAI as of January. GSMA Intelligence research also found 56 per cent of operators are actively trialling products. By providing training on IBM’s wastsox platform, the GSMA said it aims to prepare telecoms leaders for the AI-era and bridge a skills gap in a technology which will prove crucial to the industry’s growth and development.